Gunda shares her experience of doing the Ruegen 70.3 Ironman, which is a great achievement that many of us aspire to. Great job Gunda, and well done for a) representing Belpark and b) swimming with so many jellyfish!
After a summer of training last weekend was finally my big race – the Ironman 70.3 Ruegen. Over the last weeks and months I spent countless hours on the bike or went running in Phoenix Park because I did not want to run the same routes around the neighbourhood over and over again. While there were moments when I questioned myself why I was doing this – mainly while being out running, I enjoyed being outside training.
One week before the race I travelled over to Germany. I had my obligatory visit to the dentist, did the usual shopping and relaxed since it was warm and sunny. So, the last training sessions were for instance non wetsuit swims in a 20 degrees warm lake or a spin to Ratzeburg to eat some ice cream and back.
On the Thursday before the race my mum and I drove over to Rügen. During the days leading up to the race we did some sightseeing, for instance we took a boat along the coast to see the famous white chalk cliffs in the morning sun and I got ready for the race. Doing everything over a few days took all hectic pace and stress out of the race. The lovely weather and the seaside resort feeling probably did the rest to feel more or less relaxed.
The race briefing was the day before the race. They offered a German and an English briefing. Since everything triathlon related has always been in English for me, I opted for the English one.
When I arrived the briefing it was quite crowded in front of the stage and the German briefing was running late. It seems they went into quite some detail. Only a few athletes stayed for the English briefing which started a little bit late and only took about 30 minutes. After the racing I talked to one of the two Irish athletes told me a little bit about the race as he had done it before.
It was a little bit strange to check in the bike the day before and putting everything into bags instead of having all the gear on the ground or the bike. Some left their gear already on the bike the evening before while I put everything bar nutrition into bags and only sorted that and the shoes in the morning before the race.
We had a little apartment about 14km away from Binz. Nevertheless, I did not need to get up too early as the transition was open from 8am for 1.5h and the race start was at 10am for the pros. After breakfast and helping my mum with the tracker that she would be in the finish area on time, we packed and drove over to Binz. There I went into transition to set up everything and then I walked with my mum, my best friend and her husband to the start…
The probably best way to describe the swim is: Jellyfish! There were loads of them. I noticed that already two days before when I jumped into the Baltic Sea for a short test. Throughout the days, the comments about the jellyfish we heard always “they just wanna play”. At least they were harmless and the little ones were quite cute, there were just many of them.
This year they changed the start to a rolling start which was quite relaxing. Every 6 seconds 4 athletes started their race. The water temperature was about 19 degrees, so the swim was wetsuit optional. I think I saw only one of the relays starting without one. When testing the water two days before I noticed that I had forgotten how little salt there is in the Baltic Sea. So, it sometimes felt like swimming in a little saltier lake, especially since the water was of a similar green colour.
The run up to the transition was quite long and included a couple of steps down and up again. The timing mat was just before the transition and my 35 minutes for the swim include the about 400m run up to T1. It did not have the feeling that I swam that fast and there was for sure some current to help as well but I definitely had a really good swim. I also felt great getting out of the water. Probably pushing of jellyfish helped a bit.
Since the rack with my bag had no numbers from about 180 to 200, it was very easy to locate the bag (the ladies started at 201 and I had 204) . I grabbed it and continued to the tent. As always I had my shoes on the bike as well as the food and bottle but this time I put on helmet and race number already there. I also went for socks since I found 90K was too long without.
The bike course was two 45K loops on great surface and over the one or the other hill. The route was out of Binz, passed the Baumwipfelpfad (treetop walk) towards Bergen auf Rügen, from there to Putbus and back to Binz. On the first and last 10K of each lap you could see the other athletes coming back or going out again. Parts of the route were on the German Avenue Road. Those trees on either side of the road provided shadow during the hours around midday when the sun was at ita highest point.
The surface was smooth. Only in one village there where a few uneven patches or potholes closer to the side of the road. It was so nice to cycle on such a road. In the briefing I heard that they changed the route from last year so that there were no cobbled climbs anymore though. Paris – Roubaix feeling was nothing I was looking for. The train tracks which needed to be crossed were well covered. When driving along the bike route two days before the race, those crossings were my biggest concern, especially if we might need to stop.
I followed Rob’s tip from the IM 70.3 Dublin talk to take only one bottle and grab more on the bike. At the first aid station, just after the roundabout (after about 500m into the bike), I tried to grab a bottle. Well, I did not get it but grabbed a water bottle in the end. When I got down onto my tri bars I noticed that the missed attempt also had a little impact on my nail since it broke and the blood did not want to stop on the next kilometres – lovely. The next two attempts were more successful.
The first loop was over 5 minutes faster than the second one. It on the second lap I sometimes felt that I had not gone out on long bike sessions at all. Especially towards the end I just wanted it to be over and start the run. I am never a person to want to start to run as soon as possible. Since it was quite warm (I think so), I did not really feel like eating and I needed to remind myself over and over again to eat. I had practiced well what to eat and when but during the race this did not work out that well, especially my stomach was no overly excited about the food. When I packed my bike I was surprised how little I actually ate.
Back in transition I brought my bike back and then grabbed my bag. One of the girls in my age group was there as well (I passed her on a hill on lap two and later she passed me again). “Did that weirdo also tell you that we only need to run a bit now?” I told her no and left her, knowing that she would pass me later on anyway since I am not the fastest runner.
The run was a mainly flat course (km 1 – 5, 8 – 13, 16 – finish) with a nasty hill of 11% in between. And to make this more fun, you need to get it up twice and twice from the other side. It generally helps me to know what was coming but this time I would give it until the hill to decide what to do. My stomach did not really make me feel better and I guessed that I had way too little food in me for a good run.
Just passed the first kilometre, a guy passed me with the comment “Only 20K do to”. I guess that was the weirdo the girl had mentioned in T2. Just before the stadium, I saw Daniela Saemmler in second position. I expected not to see her at all during the race. If only I had only 3K left as well…
When I reached the hill, I decided to walk it up. There were many others that did the same so I did not feel that bad. Once up I ran it down again. Afterwards was a smaller incline which I mainly walked up again. Down the little hill again and up the big one again. The Irish I talked to the day before cheered me on, smiled and ran up that hill. When I signed up for the race it did not look that bad but it was an ascent of about 20m at least. For the next 5K I mainly ran again and then repeated the same on the hills again. Then were only about 5K left and I only needed to collect the last blue band. The run is only about those bloody bands, isn’t it?
During the run, I drank a lot but had to force myself again to get also other nutrition into myself. Since I do not like the offered gels etc., I had my own with me. I only got the water and iso drink offered. A lot of the run was under trees as well so it did not feel as warm and it had gotten slightly cooler which I liked. Nevertheless, I used the sponges to pour water over my head.
I finally got to the sign for the turn to the finish and ran over the carpet knowing my mum would wait there for me.
Now a few days later I feel the race in my legs – of course. Not as bad as I thought though. I have a slightly mixed feeling about not running the whole half marathon but I also knew when reaching the hill the first time, if I attempted it, I might not make it to the end as I did not feel as good as I hoped I would.
Now, would I do it again? Definitely! I loved this mixed atmosphere of the race and the seaside resort. Next time I will also run up that hill. Having my mum, my best friend and her husband there also had a big impact. They were so excited and my best friend said she is coming to my next race in Germany again. Next September I will be done with my research report, by the time of the race I should have my Master of Science but I am not sure, if I will have as much time for training as I had this summer.
And last but not least a big thank you to Padraig for lending me his bike box for this trip.
Oh yeah, and one more thing, I think Frank was right – this might probably be my distance.